Passport to equality: Making the civil service more disabled-friendly

Written by Mark Smulian on 16 February 2017 in Feature
Feature

The civil service has set its sights on being the UK’s most inclusive employer. Mark Smulian reports on efforts to make that vision a reality for disabled staff, and hears personal stories about the barriers they face

Ascending the greasy pole of the civil service can be challenging for anyone, but those with disabilities have some extra barriers to developing their careers to the full.

Some may encounter prejudice, and Civil Service People Surveys have shown a consistent 8-10% of disabled respondents cite discrimination over the past five years. 


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Often, though, the problem is more a lack of knowledge on the part of those around them. It usually falls to line managers to respond to requests for reasonable adjustments to working arrangements (introduced under the Equality Act 2010) from disabled staff, and they may not know what is possible or reasonable.

Philip Rutnam, Department for Transport permanent secretary, is designated as civil service disability champion, a role which sees him push for action on disability from the very top level of the civil service. Research conducted for Rutnam has shown that the person who makes the most difference to disabled people’s working lives is their line manager. If they better understand disabilities and adjustments, it can help both disabled civil servants’ day-to-day work and their career prospects. 

“Life in the civil service has been rich, varied, and full of opportunity and I have experienced some brilliant line management and leadership, yet climbing the grades has been slow and fraught" - Walter Scott, MoD 

Rutnam is undertaking an exercise in the early part of this year to raise line managers’ confidence in dealing with disability, with a new training course and social media campaign backed by a number of short films of civil servants with disabilities talking about their work experiences.

In November, permanent secretaries committed all civil service departments to the Government’s Disability Confident Scheme, which seeks to create a culture in which people with disabilities can realise their full potential. Launching the scheme, Rutnam said the move supported the civil service’s aim to be the UK’s most inclusive employer. “For disabled colleagues, this will mean a civil service that is more confident and capable in employing and retaining disabled people; that actively identifies and removes barriers; and provides opportunities for individuals to realise their full potential,” he said. 

Other help includes the Workplace Adjustment Passport, available to those who need some change in their work or working environment. Passports are intended to follow their holders around the service – including overseas postings – so they need not seek the help they require from scratch with each move. The scheme is designed to make conversations with line managers easier, and demonstrate that the adjustments sought have previously been agreed. Additionally, passports can be used for issues related to mental health, caring responsibilities or gender reassignment. 

Since April 2015, the Civil Service Workplace Adjustment Team has been available to offer bespoke support and advice to managers and departments. It offers a review route for more complex adjustment cases. While uptake has been relatively low to date, feedback from staff and departments has been positive. Smaller departments that cannot justify full time adjustment support draw on the team’s expertise.

Under Rutnam’s initiative, there will soon be a best practice guide for line managers on workplace adjustments, available on the CS Learning website, and departments will be able to adapt it for their intranets. For the first time, the guide will create a model policy on best practice in workplace adjustments that departments can use to raise awareness and help managers grasp the issues. All departments and civil service trade unions have been involved in its preparation.

Work is in progress to find ways to improve the talent pipeline of disabled staff, firstly by ensuring they are better represented on mainstream accelerated development programmes. 

The Positive Action Pathway was launched in May 2013, a career development programme that targets underrepresented groups, including those with disabilities. It aims to help participants build their skills and confidence and progress to the next grade, although participation does not guarantee promotion. The first two cohorts saw 24% of participants securing promotion within three months of completing the programme. By March 2016, 1,215 people had joined the programme, 300 of whom were disabled.

Help is also available from the Civil Service Disability Network, which was set up by disabled civil servants and has 65 representatives drawn from 40 departments and agencies. It hopes to be the first port of call for those with enquiries about disability issues. 

People without disabilities may be genuinely unaware of the barriers that disabled colleagues face. But the experiences of civil servants who have fought to secure adjustments and now thrive in their careers should convince anyone that progress is possible. These are some of their stories.
 

Officials share their stories
 

Esta Rooney, Chair of the Ministry of Justice Disability Network

“I am profoundly deaf and wear hearing aids, but I speak clearly and lip read. I also have spina bifida. I have worked in the civil service for 16 years and had lots of opportunities to develop my career. The challenge for me is trying to gain promotion.

“I have mostly worked in administrative roles but in 2007 I felt I needed a change. I asked to deputise but management were concerned I wouldn’t cope and were sceptical at first. I convinced them to let me try and proved them wrong, but it was a big learning curve and my colleagues really supported me. The challenge is convincing others; I am just as capable of achieving results as everyone else.” 


Sue Northcott, Software engineer – mainframe database administrator/developer, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Swansea

“I’m deaf in one ear due to a rock music related injury and have osteoarthritis. I also suffer with anxiety, diagnosed after my second serious bout of clinical depression about seven years ago. Since then my life has begun to make more sense, and I’m managing my condition better.

“My physical problems have been easier to get help with than the invisible ones. I have special equipment to help with my joint pain, and a hearing aid. I’m lucky that my manager and team are so supportive that I can be open about my anxiety. Talking about the things that worry me helps put them in perspective and makes them easier to cope with. As a union representative I know from my casework that many other civil servants aren’t so lucky.

"Talking about the things that worry me helps put them in perspective and makes them easier to cope with." - Sue Northcott, DVLA

“It would be really helpful if people felt safe to be open about mental health problems, and if managers took the trouble to understand the conditions affecting their staff.” 


Walter Scott, Assistant head, Defence Reform Unit, Ministry of Defence, London

“I have had a stammer since early childhood. I have a good degree, I enjoyed public speaking, and was ambitious, yet was hampered by a lifetime’s accumulated fear of the stigma and unpredictable reactions to my condition.

“I joined the civil service in 2003 after five difficult years in the private sector, struggling with repeated setbacks in career progression.

“Misleadingly, the appearance of my speech suggested nervousness and uncertainty, which deeply affected my self-esteem. Thankfully, I knew myself to be confident, determined, persistent, and capable of influence – providing I was given a fair chance.

“Life in the civil service has been rich, varied, and full of opportunity and I have experienced some brilliant line management and leadership, yet climbing the grades has been slow and fraught.

“I still feel less than 100% confident in competing with fluent speakers for the most desired jobs, because society’s acceptance of childhood onset stammering remains patchy.

“In 2014, I co-founded the Defence Stammering Network to support military and civil service colleagues.” 


Lisa Baldock, Administrator, Department for Work & Pensions, Portsmouth

“I was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of three: the nerves in my ears simply do not work. As I progressed in the civil service, I realised that changes to roles and line managers can happen frequently and I was constantly facing barriers. It wasn’t easy having to explain myself all the time. 

“In 2006 I suffered a very profound deterioration to my hearing loss, which impacted my wellbeing and my working life. I found I became frustrated, depressed and I felt very isolated. Instead of being negative I became positive. I designed a tip list showing my needs and how others could help me. It started breaking down those barriers, improving my relationships.

“The Workplace Adjustment Passport has proven invaluable to me each time I have experienced a change either of job or line manager. When I recently changed line manager I was able to use my passport to have a conversation about my conditions, and this helped my new line manager understand me better and help me complete my form.” 


John Grant, NRM decision maker, UK Visas and Immigration, Home Office, Leeds

“I have a heart condition. I had my first heart attack in 2012 and subsequently four cardiac arrests at the end of October 2014. It was touch and go.

“I tired very easily on return to work in Sheffield in February 2015, and the commute of up to four hours became extremely difficult. The reasonable adjustment move to Leeds over a year later was a stressful protracted period, too. My experience of being disabled – in my view – was that managers were not able to grasp a seemingly ‘invisible’ condition, and compassion dipped.

“I think to give specific disability inclusion, managers should have the will to see the difference in a person’s experience of day-to-day life, even if there is no scientific verification for that person’s situation.”

"I designed a tip list showing my needs and how others could help me. It started breaking down barriers" - Lisa Baldock, DWP 

“I attended a Positive Action Pathway in 2013, which helped build confidence and resilience. I will be applying to the Positive Action Pathway again in 2017 as I hope to gain greater leadership skills and improve my decision making effectiveness and efficiency.” 


Jonathan Walden, Universal credit full service and digital innovation manager, Department for Work & Pensions, London

“I have been in the DWP for eight years, and have no visible disability: I have dyslexia, which I like to call the hidden learning difficulty and which can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. My dyslexia is on the more severe side, though I am able to cope with assistance software on my computer, and a supportive line manager.

“While I have challenges in certain areas, I have very good skills in problem-solving and have a high level of creative thinking. We all have areas where we excel, and with support we can get up to a certain level. For me it is my reading and writing that I need to take that extra step in.

“Part of being a role model is both admitting I have a learning difficulty, but showing I can take on the challenge. So I ask people: ‘Why can’t you?’” 


Ian Boddington, Policy adviser, Dangerous Goods Division, Department for Transport, London

“I’ve been a civil servant since 1979 and have had generalised dystonia – a neurological disability – from the age of 13. There is no cure for my condition, in which my central nervous system sends messages to muscles that create involuntary spasms.  

“With a cocktail of tablets, injections and two brain operations, I’ve been able to continue working. Currently, I represent the UK at about six international meetings a year and meet UK stakeholders to discuss issues.   

“Part of being a role model is both admitting I have a learning difficulty, but showing I can take on the challenge. So I ask people: ‘Why can’t you?’” - Jonathan Walden, DWP

“Fatigue is a growing issue as I get older, but I have a Disability Passport and the DfT has enabled me to work from home when not at meetings. 

“I’ve found that line managers vary considerably and at difficult times I’ve been grateful to have my trade union, family, friends and faith to keep me going.” 


Christopher Reeves, Records manager and reviewer, Improvement and Change Division, Department for Education, London 

“I have a long term progressive illness that causes sickness, a feeling of being generally unwell and fatigue, and requires hospital treatment and strong medication.

“I have been treated with respect and sympathy by my managers, who have been very supportive when I have been unwell. I have agreed adjustments, including equipment provided to enable homeworking and rest breaks if needed. I am participating in the Positive Action Pathway.

“I worked for another department when I was diagnosed. Although there was initial sympathy from my managers, this quickly wore thin and I was aware of growing impatience, particularly as my condition required intensive treatment initially.

“When asking for some adjustments to improve my working life I was told by a manager who had a different disability ‘well, I don’t need any help’. I had to outline the Disability Discrimination Act and seek union intervention to help me secure assistance.” 


Sarah Banks, S02, Headquarters Army Recruiting and Training Division and chair of the Civilian Defence Disability Network

“I am one of the 17% of disabled people born with cerebral palsy, which has deteriorated as I have got older and affects my mobility. I am passionate about making a difference and inspiring behavioural change and have become a defence role model. 

“Treat people as you would like to be treated is my motto. In the past I was embarrassed about my disability but am now proud that it is part of me, and I will continue to work to raise awareness and champion the cause.”

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Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 16 February, 2017 - 15:48
I will believe this when I see results. The civil service does a great job talking about the aims of equality, inclusion and disability friendly policies, but are very poor in the actual delivery. You quote survey results of 8-10% citing discrimination - I think we have to take that as a conservative figure as too many people are scared to reveal the prejudice they face in case they are identified and bullied. Some parts of the civil service, like HMRC, target, bully and humiliate staff with disability.

Rather not say (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 11:12
I agree with what you said. I have applied for promotion recently (EO)a numerous of times and all have been unsuccessful, ive been with hmrc for 20 years and I actually have btec national diplomas which is equivalent to A levels! and is a level 2 on the framework! im profoundly deaf and still nothing! not even an interview which I am entitled to! this does not give me confidence that they are treating us fairly!!

rather not say (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 11:43
I agree with you on this. I have applied for promotion recently (EO) a numerous of times and have been unsuccessful! not even an interview which I am entitled to as im profoundly deaf. I have been with hmrc for 20 years and this does not give me confidence that things will change!...what annoyed me more is the fact im already on the level 2 on the civil service framework! so iam afraid the civil service does not support disabled staff as much as they are saying!

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 16 February, 2017 - 19:48
This is all well and good, and a nice nod towards equality, but when civil service departments cannot even be bothered to read and take on board expert occupational health advice, which they have paid for at a not inconsiderable cost to the taxpayer, then I hardly think information on the CS Learning site is going to make any significant difference. The reality is, from various accounts you hear and read, the civil service does not support disabled staff as much as they'd like to make out.

graham cook (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 09:12
I agree. When I was taken on in 1975 my disability (although never referred to as such) meant I had an extra years probation to see how I got on. Fine until the 2000's........ From my perspective(and that of others) the fact that someone may have a disability which isn't obvious isn't something that is discussed or grasped.... We can but hope this is a change.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 12:46
The problem is often not my line manager, but people at the level of more senior leaders who fail to consider the impact of their decisions until after a decision has been made. Such as claiming building moves will take into account your disability, but when you come to one to one with your line manager you realise they do not know how many disabled people will need parking on site, nor have they even considered this but expect you to tell them whether you can make it to the new building and you have to guess if there will be parking provided.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 08:41
I agree with what you say. This is what life inside HMRC is like. The problem with senior 'leaders' is their attitude. Far too many, probably the majority, consider themselves elite, special & superior, and they look down on junior staff on the frontline. Such an attitude not only leads to an environment where toxic behaviour prevails, but it creates a detachment whereby senior management are too remote from the real working lives of most of the staff, and hence can it really be a surprise that they "fail to consider the impact of their decisions..." ?

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 12:59
The Civil Service talks a good game. That's it. They consciously and consistently ignore advise, assuming a referral to OH is even done, and are remarkably fast out of the blocks with a "recommendation for termination", even where you are covered extensively by equality legislation, and insist on formal grievances where a condition is not explicitly covered. HR procedures are seen as largely a black art, and I have yet to meet an HR "expert" who has even properly grasped the basics of equality. let alone the complex stuff people have to live with. Must Improve.

Anon (regretfully) (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 13:06
The main problem for me is a very severe back condition, I have had two lots of surgery, and need a third. The condition is unpredictable, with episodes of severe spasm. When it is bad, I cannot come to work, and there is where the problems start. I've been at work, having taken an extra dose of analgesia, but still in severe pain. It is less stress to do this than be off sick. I've used leave when ill to keep me out of the draconian sickness absence procedures. Thankfully, I retire at the end of September, because I've had just about all I can take.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 13:35
The last notification I got about a talent scheme for disabled people seemed to cover every grade except mine. So that wasn't very useful to me. I agree with the other comments, that the civil service is better at trying to look good than actually being good, and I've seen various examples of not taking on board occupation health advice. Most concerning for me is the bigotry and discrimination that people can get away with. My previous manager told me that I was bashing her over the head with my disability. It was a private conversation, with no witnesses, so she can get away with that. She suggested that my disability renders me unsuitable for promotion, then told me I was bashing her over the head with my disability. THAT is the reality of the weak and worthless way the civil service deals with disability issues. Nothing filters down to the bigots and bullies that pervade senior management.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 08:53
Interesting comment. I too agree that the civil service are better at trying to look good than actually matching their fine words. The issue of not taking OH advice on board is a scandal which needs looking at by Government. It leaves disabled staff disadvantaged. Its a tick box exercise, but I am not sure the hard pressed tax payers would be pleased to see their hard earned money being spent on advice which is effectively just tossed in the bin to enable the civil service to tick a box and in an attempt to negate their legal responsibilities. I am sorry to read of the bigotry and bullying. The NHS bullying culture needed the attention of the mainstream media to bring changes, and its time the issues in the Civil Service got more attention.

Stuart (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 13:47
Moves to Regional Centres will disproportionately affect disabled members of staff, as will hotdesking. Performance Assessment has been shown, year on year, to be disproportionately to the detriment of disabled members of staff. When the core plans of Departments are themselves massively discriminatory, it becomes very clear what those Departments' REAL view is of their disabled staff.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 13:49
"Civil Service People Surveys have shown a consistent 8-10% of disabled respondents cite discrimination over the past five years" That figure is shameful. If a manager was racist, I imagine they would be swiftly shown the door. Same with sexism. It appears to me you have an embedded culture that disability is less important, and hence that 10% is not falling. I give you this as an example: A confidential report on the condition suffered by someone I know - which they struggled for seven years to have recognised - a report which cost the department £500, has apparently disappeared from their personal file. I don't believe it was ever read, let alone understood. They haven't cited discrimination because they just KNOW they'll be labelled a troublemaker. Even if not, it'll certainly put a crimp on their relationship with their manager. So, yes, I believe it is under-reported, but by how much I am unable to gauge. I believe we're heading in the right direction, but we have some way to go.

Concerned about... (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 11:51
Disability not taken seriously? A report costing the taxpayer £500 goes missing - really, who are they trying to fool? Get a copy of the report and expose their dishonesty. Write to your MP demanding an investigation as it sounds like misconduct by management. Discrimination disregarded and labelled a trouble maker? None of this will be a surprise to anyone who has been on the receiving end of all this in the civil service. Sadly having seen their brutal authoritarian methods, which some may describe as "thuggish", I do not share your optimism that they are heading in the right direction. I think they're choosing to ignore the scale of the problem. At the end of the day, civil service management need to get real. If they can't comply with the law e.g. Equality Act 2010, what message does it send to a struggling small business employer who doesn't have the resources of the civil service? What does it say about democracy when government departments fail to comply with the laws made? The culture is rotten.

anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 14:18
There is a lot of talk on Equality and health and safety of staff. However reality is different. I had bitter experiences since becoming disabled after a major accident few years ago. I work for HMRC and have constantly faced discrimination since becoming disabled. I am suffering from chronic pains and have mental health issues. I am at more disadvantage because my disability is not visible. I had to wait months to years to get OH recommended equipment. I had to face MPA process for sickness even though I was still awaiting for necessary adjustments recommended by my GP and two OH reports. I had bouts of clinical depression three times because of treatments I have received from management. I was top performer before and I am now seen as an easy target to give poor performance. OH reports are completely ignored at times. My work life has remained a constant uphill struggle. Reading the above article seems like just talk to me.

Anon(regretfully) (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 13:58
I feel for you. My own experience is similar, my comment is further up the page. I use the word 'regretfully', because I have no faith in not being victimised, which in itself is dreadful. I don't think I've ever posted an anonymous comment on a workplace board before. In my workplace, nepotism is rife. Those in the 'clique' are dealt with extraordinarily gently regarding sick absence, those not in the 'clique' get hammered. Management needs to learn that life is hard when you are struggling with injury and chronic pain. The real irony is that my back injury was incurred during military service.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 09:02
Sorry to read of your experience. HMRC are a notoriously bad employer, riding roughshod over who they consider to be easy targets. It is no way to operate a business and perhaps explains the poor performance of HMRC overall? The civil service can teach other employers nothing. They need to be a honest about the state of affairs and show a little humility i.e. be ready to learn lessons from the best in the private sector and elsewhere within the public sector. You are right that this article is "just talk" and I wish you all the best with your struggles.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 16:20
Unfortunately the loss of DRSA and the new disability trigger point is another step to excluding disabled colleagues. Most people with disabilities don't require additional sick absence as a reasonable adjustment but some do and for some the figure is high, due to reduced immune systems and medication side effects. Talk doesn't cost but 10 + or even 20+ extra sick days does and the civil service is a big enough employer to afford it, but is reluctant to agree.

Ian Mitchell (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 17:22
The Workplace Adjustment Passport can be really helpful for the less visible conditions. For an example, see https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2017/02/03/the-workplace-adjustment-passport-ians-story/

Sue Lewis (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 07:20
Lets see accessibility issues for users of assissitive tecnology such as Dragon , Jaws, etc be given a higher priority when updates are made to the system, ensuring that the systems are accessible to all users before they are rolled out. That would really make a differance

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 08:06
First of all only 8-10% cite a discrimination in the LAST FIVE YEARS. Oh come on! So much got to agree with comment number two. I have had multiple Occupational Health reports written at HMRC's request only for HMRC to then ignore the advice because it does not suit them and they would have to 'slacken off their forever tightening grip on adjustments' etc. It is all just posh office chit chat that will never make a difference on the shop floor if you have a disability. It's a battleground and there is nobody fighting with you. Makes me sick!

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 09:29
Got to agree with you its just "posh office chit chat". What we see is the chattering class elite saying all the rights things to feel better about disability, while I would be surprised if they did not know that deep down nothing will change. Real action, instead of all the chat, is what is needed. Given the sheer number of comments about HMRC, the first place to start would be within that dept.

Anony Mouse (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 08:13
Yet the Civil service give awards to the DSTL Office re-design (http://www.tw3awards.com/page/2017-winners) which discriminates against those with autism and learning differences

John Howes Read... (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 11:21
I have a good working relationship with my line manager and we have developed my four day working rota and a slightly delayed interview start to my working day, to relieve the travel stress on commuter trains first thing in the morning. I have temporal lobe epilepsy, which really benefits from regular sleep patterns, reduction in stress, and a good eating pattern. My reasonable adjustment organized at a local level works. The only disadvantage to the business is that I do not always do an 8.15 am interview, the gain to the business is that me epilepsy has not caused me to have one day sick as a result.

Corrine (not verified)

Submitted on 21 February, 2017 - 15:58
After 2 1/2 years of severe fatigue & pain I was finally diagnosed with having Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome on top of the list of health problems I already have i.e.; Tenosynovitis, Osteoarthritis & bulging discs in my lower back. I have had some reasonable adjustments made but these are very minimal. I have been to all the appointments/group therapies & tried different prescribed medications but am still trying to stabilise my condition. I work shifts & some shifts are a lot harder than others, especially those that are out of a normal routine. I have explained this to my employer & provided them with details about my condition. I have a letter from my Consultant & recommendations from OH stating that I should be given consideration to avoid those shifts that exacerbate my condition & even be able to home work, change my starting/finishing times, if necessary but my employer has been less than supportive & has given me an ultimatum of work "all" shifts or move to a day post (which would mean an approx. drop in salary of approx. £800 per month) so easy said than done. I thought the Government were trying to get disabled people back in to work yet they insist on issuing me, & others like me, with a formal written warning for taking too much sick!! What constitutes too much sick when you have a disability whether visible or not???

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 08:18
I suffer from a total of 5 conditions that are considered disabilities and I would love to work somewhere where they treat you as detailed above, unfortunately I work for the civil service. I have been told that managing me and my conditions is "onerous", that my Disability passport wasn't worth the paper it was written on, a Occupational Health report was sent back to be rewritten because my managers didn't like what it suggested and when I got Access to Work to do an assessment and a report, I was told I wouldn't necessarily get all of the adjustments as it would be down to what the business felt was "reasonable". Which leaves me unsupported and in pain.

ANON (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 08:51
I have a muscular/skeletal condition causing constant joint dislocations and pain 365 days/nights, it's invisible but debilitating; I have limitations but still can do my duties. I have a Workplace Adjustment Passport I did not expect my new manager to request why each piece of equipment/furniture has been granted in years prior to this process ever being in place(e.g. why do I have a fan/desk light/chubby pen!), passport does not require this it requests jobholder to list what they have; this came from someone who'd worked outside HMRC as a Disability officer! I was also asked to come in with debilitating migraines; I often work with a migraine it's rare I'm off with one. I'm aware that a court of law can determine you are disabled; I have medical proof. I have never had any disability sick leave in 4 decades of being in HMRC, I do not feel supported and am really tired of discrimination received since I disclosed my disability.

Faith O'Sullivan (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 09:19
I am a Manager - I have an ABI - an "acquired brain injury" as a result of a catastrophic brain haemorrhage I suffered out of the blue one night in 2011. I am also now registered as partially sighted as a result of that one night. I say it time and time again - it is true - since over 75% of people registered partially sighted are not in employment and those with brain injuries are even fewer - I feel so lucky to still have a job - much less be let loose with a team of people in complaints - who are required to understand and support vulnerable Customers and then me on a daily basis - but to their credit - they do. I have never got over the loss - just waking up one day and having to deal with loss - the loss of my driving license, my car, my freedom, my short term memory, my words, my confidence, not recognising myself in a mirror - not being able to see properly - the loss of career prospects and the loss of hope and all that encompasses. Instead - gaining anxiety, dread and then getting on and learning to get to know who I am now - what I can do - it really is as much a mystery to me as it is my Managers. Do I get depressed - yes - yes I do. Do I get sad and need support - of course I do - I'm not good at crowds - I'm not good with taking things on board quickly and I still do find having to tell people all about me - difficult - I'm proud - would like my work and my smile to speak for me really - but if I don't speak out - how will any new Manager know? This is a changing world we all can struggle in - its not just about me. Do I feel humiliated ? no actually - do I feel frustrated ? often but generally with myself - my own paranoia, my own fears - these are the things I wrestle with - and people round me will tell me straight if they feel I am getting insecure and NO, I don't take that as bullying. I am so glad they feel they can tell me straight! I am proud of my attendance and I am grateful that this employer sees its way to still being able to employ me when so many like me are not. When I became like this - I was told " people wont be nicer to you because you are disabled - why should they be so don't expect it?" My disabilities are largely invisible but they are mine. My Colleagues are all looking forward to the arrival of my Guide Dog - there is no shortage of offers to help and support and pick me up - my team they do take it in turns to get me drinks and food and over look me asking the same question 12 times a day. I am genuinely offended that any disabled person feels targeted and bullied and humiliated by anyone but I also know - my hardest learned lesson has been learning to be grateful for the help I get - I used to feel obligation, not gratitude and I used to get very prickly & angry because of it - but now I know - usually I am prickly because of me and my reactions to the world. I would love to feel promotable - it would however make me anxious and that is the reality I need to work on. I am so proud of HMRC - I am too - because I am still here, still a Manager and they still think me worth taking a chance on.

Faith O'Sullivan (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 09:21
I am a Manager - I have an ABI - an "acquired brain injury" as a result of a catastrophic brain haemorrhage I suffered out of the blue one night in 2011. I am also now registered as partially sighted as a result of that one night. I say it time and time again - it is true - since over 75% of people registered partially sighted are not in employment and those with brain injuries are even fewer - I feel so lucky to still have a job - much less be let loose with a team of people in complaints - who are required to understand and support vulnerable Customers and then me on a daily basis - but to their credit - they do. I have never got over the loss - just waking up one day and having to deal with loss - the loss of my driving license, my car, my freedom, my short term memory, my words, my confidence, not recognising myself in a mirror - not being able to see properly - the loss of career prospects and the loss of hope and all that encompasses. Instead - gaining anxiety, dread and then getting on and learning to get to know who I am now - what I can do - it really is as much a mystery to me as it is my Managers. Do I get depressed - yes - yes I do. Do I get sad and need support - of course I do - I'm not good at crowds - I'm not good with taking things on board quickly and I still do find having to tell people all about me - difficult - I'm proud - would like my work and my smile to speak for me really - but if I don't speak out - how will any new Manager know? This is a changing world we all can struggle in - its not just about me. Do I feel humiliated ? no actually - do I feel frustrated ? often but generally with myself - my own paranoia, my own fears - these are the things I wrestle with - and people round me will tell me straight if they feel I am getting insecure and NO, I don't take that as bullying. I am so glad they feel they can tell me straight! I am proud of my attendance and I am grateful that this employer sees its way to still being able to employ me when so many like me are not. When I became like this - I was told " people wont be nicer to you because you are disabled - why should they be so don't expect it?" My disabilities are largely invisible but they are mine. My Colleagues are all looking forward to the arrival of my Guide Dog - there is no shortage of offers to help and support and pick me up - my team they do take it in turns to get me drinks and food and over look me asking the same question 12 times a day. I am genuinely offended that any disabled person feels targeted and bullied and humiliated by anyone but I also know - my hardest learned lesson has been learning to be grateful for the help I get - I used to feel obligation, not gratitude and I used to get very prickly & angry because of it - but now I know - usually I am prickly because of me and my reactions to the world. I would love to feel promotable - it would however make me anxious and that is the reality I need to work on. I am so proud of HMRC - I am too - because I am still here, still a Manager and they still think me worth taking a chance on.

Dave Havery (not verified)

Submitted on 22 February, 2017 - 12:32
I recently returned to work from 5+ months on the sick with Depression due to several instances of Bullying Harassment Intimidation & Disability discrimination. I have a congenital birth defect which I have only 1 finger on my left hand and no leg below my left knee. I am a career Civil Servant, 36 years, and joined in 1981 because even then the Civil Service was considered the most diverse employer in the UK. Yeah I may have suffered some prejudice in these years but it always made me stronger and more determined to succeed, which I believe I have. I have always felt supported however after accepting a promotion in 2015 to HO in HMRC I have endured 18 months of hell from being called an embarrassment by one manager, to agreed reasonable adjustments with OH not been adhered to or where treated as a tick box exercise by 2 other managers, to one of those same managers labelling me as disabled in a validation report, which was demeaning and not appropriate for the audience it went to and the same manager dismissed my DSE assessed bespoke furniture as unnecessary as showcase furniture was suitable for 95% of staff and trust me to be one of the 5%. I have been passed over when requesting additional duties to showcase my skills in order that I might apply for SO vacancies I knew I had the skills for and those same opportunities were afforded to my colleagues with less experience. What is more galling is I tried to seek advice and support from diversity and disability groups diversity champions no one could be bothered to contact me. Which led to the months on the sick with depression. During this phase I wrote to senior managers to highlight my experience and the reply I got was "sorry to hear you are unwell and I would like to wish you a merry xmas and a happy new year and look forward to you returning to work soon" Having self sourced support from doctors, counselling friends and colleagues I returned to work and I then took my story to the top of HMRC a director general no less, it is only now someone appears to be listening but I'm not a vindictive person I have learned from my counsellor to put this behind me, I don't wish to make a complaint or grievance, honestly I believe it would do no good, I only want an apology, which I'm still waiting for, and that someone listens to my story of what its like at grass roots level and take me up on the offer in sharing my experiences with others. When the incidents happened I was 52 years old worked 35 years in numerous civil service depts. without suffering the hurt or pain of discrimination but it took less than 6 months in the Compliance Office to break me. I hope this story can help someone come to terms with discrimination in what ever form and to seek help if they need it.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 24 February, 2017 - 12:56
The above made the effort, although unwell at the time, to write to HMRC senior managers to "highlight my experience". The reply they got was quite frankly patronising; ignoring the issue and offer 'greetings of the season'. Evidently they have no tact to be effective managers but do these people have any life experience? If they're unable to understand the effect of their words and behaviour on others, it makes me wonder if they should be employed in the civil service at all - its a basic level of demonstrating respect for diversity & those in a vulnerable position. Victims of degrading behaviour, as described, need understanding and meaningful help, not a patronising attitude to bullying and disability discrimination which is stuck in the dark ages. In the meantime the new scheme is just superficial window dressing.

Kevin D (Keviano) (not verified)

Submitted on 24 February, 2017 - 13:19
There have been a plethora of articles regarding the Civil Service's recognition of apparent systemic discrimination towards disabled employees within the Service. Mark's is another welcome addition to the high-profiling of this as a live problem doing reputational damage to HMRC as a business. Working within HMRC, I am fully aware of the diversity of customers I will deal with on a day-to-day basis. Those customers have every right and expectation to be dealt with professionally including respect and consideration for their personal needs. This includes consideration and effort to remove barriers to interaction created by our own policies, procedures and behaviours. This focus and appreciation of our customers is, I believe, fairly well recognised among HMRC employees. However the contrast between this and HMRC's attitude towards recognising/removing internal barriers for its own disabled workforce is stark. My own experience, as someone with hidden disability, is that line managers are far too often indifferent, uneducated and unmotivated towards ensuring HMRC complies with it's lawful obligations under the Equality Act when it comes to consideration of HMRC's own employees. Little wonder that HMRC is one of the highest underperforming departments in the annual People Survey's when it comes to reporting of discrimination/bullying/harassment of its own disabled workforce. In my personal view, a large part of that problem comes from the fact that line managers are often promoted to that position more as consequence of their longevity within the Department, rather than on any presumed people skills they may offer the role. The consequence is that they come to the managerial role adopting the same historic behaviours and attitudes which have prevailed over time and which have led to the potential systemic discrimination. The mind-set appears to be that disabled employees are a burden to be removed rather than an opportunity to nurture diverse talent and potential. Managers, thus promoted, will use well-intentioned anti-discrimination policies and processes as a means to avoid, limit or remove reasonable adjustments which could otherwise aid the disabled worker in reaching their full potential. The Workplace Adjustment Passport (WAP), often mooted and accepted as a progressive policy action, is far too often legitimised by managers who seem to believe that bi-annual reviews are intended to re-set the adjustments to zero, with the disabled employee then forced to re-present their case. This has humiliating and highly stressful consequences for the disabled employee and from the large number of articles and personal opinion pieces here and on Civil Service Blog is in direct opposition to the intentions and purpose of the WAP process. In my view and from my own personal experience, the Civil Service needs to focus equal weight on it's commitment and delivery of its obligations under the Equality Act, with a critical review of the appointments/recruitment process to ensure current and future managers are fully literate of their obligations under the Act, the Service's own recognition of diverse talent and a resolute recruiting strategy that inoculates against promotion for simple "time served".

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 25 February, 2017 - 06:52
Dave's personal account is helpful to survivors of bullying at HMRC and elsewhere. Any number of policies will only we as good as the willingness to follow them to the letter and the spirit. The civil service would win awards for anti-bullying, equality & diversity if success were measured on the number of policies alone. Its the delivery which counts. If they have won awards then maybe the judges need to take a closer look at the reality. Disabled employees are not well treated in HMRC, who see them as an easy target to bully. On the 'shop floor' and within senior management the mind-set against disabled staff is that they are a burden to be removed, as the above says. This upsetting personal story once again raises the profile about the HMRC bullying culture.

Prefer Not To Say (not verified)

Submitted on 24 February, 2017 - 12:41
This scheme would mean something if Civil Service leaders were committed to tackling the issue of bullying, harassment, victimisation, bigotry and humiliation of the HMRC employees. Various comments above, and staff survey results, tell us plainly that there is a huge problem in HMRC.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 27 February, 2017 - 11:13
They will not be the UK's most inclusive employer until they address their alleged failure to comply with relevant workplace legislation e.g. Equality Act 2010. They must deal with the bullying culture too. Being the "most" inclusive employer seems a too ambitious place to start. First they must start by at least providing a safe & healthy working environment. Get that bit round, demonstrate they're making meaningful progress and then their ambitions will be a little more believable. The above comments from people about what they have experienced would disgust any decent and fair-minded person.

AnonymousForFea... (not verified)

Submitted on 8 March, 2017 - 14:59
Not a single positive comment about the experience of staff with long term health conditions and disabilities. Yet we have an enhanced public sector equality duty. I wish the workplace adjustment passports was made compulsory with review dates. And no decision impacting a member of staff regarding reasonable adjustments should be taken by the line management chain. the experiences of staff on this page are testimony to this being a failed practice. it should be an independent decision maker who evaluates a business case and the OH evidence; Always opaque business needs are cited as reasons to refuse adjustments by business managers whose priority is always the deliverable and neverthe individual. We think by giving staff with disabilities a choice in the WPA passport we are empowering them; WRONG because all we do is empower the managers to do what they like. I'm really saddened that in the 21 century we treat our some of our people with inhumanity both in society and in our civil service. Every senior leader reading this page is culpable for the experiences documented here, directly and indirectly. And its time we put civil back into the service our staff provide.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 15 March, 2017 - 18:40
Philip Rutnam's study has idenfies that line managers make the greatest imapct on a disabled person's working life. He would do well to start at permanent secretary level and explain to them what inclusivity means. It would help avoid claims on the civil service blog that events are inclusive where they are lacking in disabled delegates.

Gavin Thomas (not verified)

Submitted on 16 March, 2017 - 14:28
Thank you for a fantastic piece. I would like to thank you to Philip Rutnum for being such a proactive Civil Service Champion, the various Civil Service Staff Associations whose have worked hard to improve the level of awareness and inclusion and to those above who have written about their experiences. I can certain say that the organisation is far more Disbability Smart that it was when I joined 26 years ago.

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